Do’s & Don’ts while you’re in Kyoto for Solo Travel

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Kyoto Prefecture is the brand ambassador of Japan’s traditional side—and rightfully so! But do you know how to survive like a pro in the former capital of Japan? It’s simple: learn the do’s and don’ts. Whether it is the best way to navigate Kyoto or maintain decorum and respect for Kyoto culture, knowing what you should do and don’t makes all the difference. 

So, if you plan to explore the numerous Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, gardens, palaces, and the infamous matcha tea culture of Kyoto in 2024 – quickly scan through the top do’s and don’ts in Kyoto. I wish someone had told me!

Do’s in Kyoto for Solo Travel

Want to Avoid Crowds Yet Tick Off the Touristy Spots? Visit the Spots in Dawn or Dusk 

When I was in Kyoto, I made it a point to visit the tourist spots when they were least crowded. From my experience – be it Fushimi Inari, Kinaku-ji temple, or Arashiyama, I feel the best time to explore these popular sites is at dawn – around 5 to 6 am. 

However, if you are not an early bird – you can still escape the crowd by exploring these sites in the afternoon. Some of these spots are even accessible during dusk. 

Make the Most of Kyoto – Rent a Bicycle 

If you’re tired from all the walking, do rent a bicycle to get around Kyoto. It’s safe and the next best way to get around Kyoto after walking. 

You will easily cover all the major attractions and get insights into lesser-known spots of the city, such as street stalls, local crafts, joints, or shrines. 

Eat as a Local Does in Kyoto. 

Needless to say, when you’re in Japan’s food capital, you have to eat like the locals do! From fine dining – Kaiseki – a multi-course meal, to Shojin Ryori – a vegetarian cuisine of Japanese Buddhists, Kyoto will take you by surprise with its diverse delicacies. 

Plus, sip on a cup of matcha (it’s perfect for a caffeine addict like me). And head to Nishiki market – the Kyoto kitchen. With over 100 stalls, you must try Yuba – tofu skin, Kyoto Sake, Kyoto Soba – buckwheat noodles, mackerel sushi, and Japanese sweet – Yatsuhashi there.   

Do Communicate and Strike a Chord with the Locals

No matter which part of the world you are in, striking a chord with the locals enriches your overall experience—ALWAYS! Communication is the key to it!

But do people speak English in Kyoto? Well, yes! Specifically around tourist spots, hotels, and restaurants. However, to form a connection with the locals, learn these few key phrases: 

  • Sumimasen – Excuse me/ I am sorry
  • Arigato Gozaimasu – Thank you (in a polite way)
  • Toire Arimasu Ka? – Do you have a restroom?
  • Daijoubu Desu – No, thank you/ I am ok
  • Onegaishimasu – Please

Slip on a Comfortable Slipper 

Kyoto demands a comfortable slipper to slip on and off while you’re exploring the city. Can you guess why? Because all of the traditional temples and shrines expect you to remove your shoes before entering. 

Even several restaurants and inns do not permit outdoor shoes inside. So, flip-flops are ideal for walking around Kyoto. 

Don’ts in Kyoto for Solo Travel

Don’t Just Stick to Temples and Shrines – Explore Kyoto Beyond It

Although Kyoto has a reputation for being a spiritual hub, with approximately two thousand temples and shrines, the city is much more than that. The Nijo-jo castle, Gion Street, and Nishiki market are some of the must-visit places in Kyoto.  

Alternatively, you can even take day trips to Nara Park or visit the birthplace of matcha – Uji in southern Kyoto. If you are adventurous, don’t forget to hit the hiking trails of Kyoto, from Kurama to Kibune and Takao to Hozukyo.

Don’t be a Maiko or Geisha Paparazzi in Kyoto – Respect Their Space and Time

Maiko or Geisha paparazzi is one of the common social problems in Kyoto. It occurs when tourists invade Maiko’s or Geisha’s personal space and click their pictures without permission.

Although Maiko walking down the streets with their special Zori shoes was a symbol of Kyoto, it is a rare sight nowadays. If you are lucky to spot them, do not touch their kimono or hair; respect their space and time.

Don’t Leave Tips – Strictly Stick To Bill

Guess what happens when you tip in Kyoto, Japan, out of a polite gesture? Unlike anywhere in the world, the service provider feels offended and insulted. They will directly decline your tip.

So, in Kyoto or any part of Japan, I strictly stick to the bill and complete the payment at the front counter. By the way, from my time in Kyoto, I have realised that cash is your saviour. Carry cash everywhere—the Japanese people prefer cash over cards. 

Don’t Forget Your Etiquette 

Japanese people are known for their manners and etiquette. Be mindful of how you act when you’re in a public space. Here are a few things to take care of when you’re in Kyoto:

  • Do not litter – carry your waste in a zip-lock bag and dump it in a dustbin.
  • Blowing your nose in public is considered as rude.
  • Do not experiment with your chopsticks – use them in the right manner. Don’t play with it or stick it inside your food.
  • Don’t talk loudly in public spaces
  • Do not eat and drink as you walk in the neighbourhoods of Kyoto
  • Don’t touch artworks of temples and shrines in Kyoto 
  • Do not cut the queue

What are you waiting for?

Kyoto, one of Japan’s all-rounder cities, is worth every second of your time. It is safe, spiritual, and adventurous. So, what are you waiting for? Craft an itinerary according to your schedule, focusing on the do’s and distance from the don’ts, and you will be all set to explore Kyoto like never before. 

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Swagachi

An introverted solo female traveller on an adventure around the world.

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